by Transmute Jun
Warning: this review contains multiple spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 4.
Most episodes of The Walking Dead feature at least two alternate plots. Episodes go back and forth between different groups of characters to create tension and mirror storylines, such as in the first episodes of the season, where the plot moved between Maggie’s group searching for the light at the end of the train tunnel and Eugene’s group seeing the light on the other side of the train car as they were admitted into the Commonwealth. Yet this episode only focused on one storyline: Daryl’s encounter with the Reapers and his reunion with Leah. This single storyline created the most intensity viewers have seen so far this season.
It was obvious at the end of episode 1018 (from the extended 10th season) that Leah would return. Now we know that she went back to her “family”, the Reapers. Leah has known some of these men since they fought together as military, then as mercenaries, before the zombie apocalypse. That kind of bond is very strong, as she has experienced traumatic events before, during, and after the apocalypse with these people. That understanding helps explain why ultimately, she sides with them over Daryl, whom she has known for a much shorter period of time. Even so, she stuck her neck out for Daryl, vouching for him with Pope and allowing herself to be used (or at least, not protesting after the fact) as part of Daryl’s initiation ‘test’.
The ending result is that Daryl is now a member of the Reapers, and while dangerous for him, this could prove to be very valuable for Maggie’s group. We still do not understand why the Reapers have such a hatred of Maggie and her group. They did not even know for certain that she was the leader, and it appears that they do not know her name. So why do they hate her so passionately that they would chase her down all of the way back to Alexandria and ‘mark’ her for death? This has yet to be seen.
Pope, the Reaper leader, is clearly not entirely in his right mind, but is sane enough to be dangerous. In the apocalypse, this is not uncommon, and viewers have seen similar characteristics in villains such as Alpha, Beta, Gareth (of the Termites) and the Governor. Pope was ‘born again’ when his group survived a firebombing, and now seems to view fire as some kind of spiritual cleansing. Pope used fire to test Daryl’s character, and also to punish Bossy for running away from a fight and thereby causing Turner to die. Bossy’s face burning in the fire was eerily reminiscent of Dwight’s fate at the hands of Negan. The difference is that Negan, while egotistical, was entirely sane, and only burned Dwight’s face enough to send a message, allowing him to live and become a trusted member of the Saviors. In contrast, Pope clearly does not allow second chances.
In episode 1102, we saw Eugene’s masterful lying, telling Mercer just enough truth to hide information about Alexandria. In this episode, we saw Daryl lying just as convincingly, telling Leah that he didn’t ‘know these people’, and giving up only the most minimal amount of information. It was impressive how Daryl actually conveyed this approach to Frost (Maggie’s friend who had also been captured) while the Reapers were listening in to the conversation. It is clear that Daryl’s first loyalty is to the people of Alexandria, and not to Leah, although his behavior in his ‘test of fire’ shows that if those loyalties don’t conflict, he will help Leah too.
I am looking forward to seeing how Daryl brings down the Reapers from within. While Pope does not interest me much as a villain, I appreciate the intrigue of Daryl meeting up with Leah and joining the ‘bad guys’, just as Negan infiltrated the Whisperers.
For those who play the AMC Walking Dead mobile games, this week’s Walking Dead: No Man’s Land season episode shows Daryl scouting for supplies before running into a Reaper.
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